Crewe Alexandra stepped up their pre-season preparation with a much improved test against Barnsley this afternoon. In demanding heat, Alex Morris’ side put a real shift in against a strongly named Barnsley side trying to impress their new manager Michael Duff.
Watched by a couple of hundred Barnsley season ticket holders, the match ended in stalemate with both sides working exceeding hard in stifling conditions to keep a clean-sheet at the club’s Academy.
Morris named a couple of trialists in his starting line-up and we finished the goalless draw with another trialist playing centre midfield and youngsters Holicek and Lunt trying to conjure up something in the final third of the pitch.
There was much to take from such an organised and hard working display and those who got significant minutes under their belts would only have benefitted playing at a high tempo and against a team having a lot more possession of the football. Morris and his coaches will only be pleased to have seen the discipline in our shape and the work ethic of his players to come away with a draw.
That is not to say that we couldn’t have sneaked a 1-0 with a couple of openings coming when Duff elected to swap his entire starting XI with around 25 minutes still left to play.
Our latest friendly started in lively fashion early on and Crewe were well drilled to catch Barnsley offside on a couple of occasions early on. If they did have a chance to cross into our box, captain Luke Offord was more often than there to clear. Alongside the calm and assured Rod McDonald they kept Devante Cole and Leya Iseka well enough from our goal. It was a really good containment job.
Barnsley’s midfielder Herbie Kane struck Luke free kick into a stubborn Crewe wall from a free-kick and Luke Thomas was dangerous in and around the edge of the Crewe box but Dave Richards was hardly tested. Mads Andersen also had a shot that went just wide.
The assured Charlie Finney continues to impress at left-back and one cross to the opposite wing needed Daniel Agyei just to gamble a bit more on the quality of the delivery.
Cole shot into the side netting and defenders Liam Kitching and Callum Styles combined at a corner but couldn’t keep the final header down enough to force Richards into a save.
Crewe continued to work hard to limit Barnsley’s attempts at our goal but a rare mistake in the game from Richards presented the home side with the best chance of the game in the second period. The Alex goalkeeper looked to have collected a deep cross but the ball squirted from his grasp and he had his captain to thank for getting a fantastic block to divert the follow up behind for a corner.
Crewe grew into the second half and had half chances of our own. A good move involving Bassala Sambou and the hard working Courtney Baker-Richardson allowed the supportive Tariq Uwakwe to fire in a low shot that just cleared Jack Walton’s far post.
Billy Sass-Davies, Regan Griffiths and another trialist were introduced for another trialist, McDonald and Finney. Barnsley also made 11 changes.
The full-back trialist hit a fantastic ball down the line for Agyei to race into and his low drive at the near post forced a save and resulted in a corner for Crewe. From a well worked routine, Griffiths made a fine run to the far post but we couldn’t make the most of his header back across a crowded box.
More of the Crewe youngsters appeared for the closing quarter and after a fine run from Holicek, his visionary put back deserved better support and Tabiner couldn’t quite reach it first. With Crewe looking the more likely side to perhaps snatch it, both Lunt and Tabiner had positive runs but couldn’t quite get their shots more on target. Crewe’s work ethic was superb and we came away with a draw and a clean-sheet.